Johannesburg - South Africans from all walks of life have buried their differences and on Sunday stand united in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s nation’s coming of age.
But while political parties, in the middle of election campaigns, shared the consensus that South Africa today is a better country than it was 20 years ago, they cautioned against corruption. The parties remained vocal on the shortcomings of the government and the ANC.
The government hadn’t “managed our democracy properly”, said United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa.
“There are signs that we’re on a slippery slope in many areas, especially on service delivery,” he said. “When you’re on the road you’re not sure whether you’ll reach your destination or your car will be stoned by angry people because the powers that be don’t distribute resources equitably.”
Kenneth Meshoe, leader of African Christian Democratic Party said: “I’m grateful to see how the nation has pursued the task of reconciliation and how the level of tolerance has greatly improved. Remember that pre-94 there was a lot of political intolerance, there were many no-go areas. Today those areas are open for political activity. These are signs of growth and maturity.
“The only regrettable thing is crime and other wrongdoings, which indicates that some people are misunderstanding rights to mean doing everything, including what is wrong,” Meshoe said.
“I’m hoping that the next 20 will be even better, that those who have been abusing their rights also become mature and start respecting rights of other people.”
IFP national organiser Alco Ngobese said that while the party was also grateful for the freedom South Africans had, the post-1994 governments should have done better.
Ngobese said the government’s record was not good enough largely due to corruption and cadre deployment.
“With the budget we have, running into a trillion, we should not be where we are,” he said.
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said April 27 must remind South Africans that the struggle must continue and that the basic freedom should galvanise the nation towards fighting for economic emancipation.
“Use the gift that April 27 gives to vote for EFF,” Ndlozi said.
He said in the coming elections, only the EFF would deliver economic freedom.
On Friday evening, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, speaking at the Oxford University conference on 20 years of South African democracy, said the South African system of democracy entailed: judicial independence; a bill of rights that safeguards human rights; free and fair elections; the right to hold public office; as well as the principle of separation of powers.
Consolidating democracy entailed strengthening institutions and cultures that underpin these democratic procedures, said Motlanthe.
“I would like to contend that transitioning from apartheid to democracy was a single, indivisible process, albeit marked by different historical phases.
“The first phase comprised the multiparty negotiation process and the second was marked by the inauguration of the democratic state. South Africa is currently undergoing the second phase in that it has been consolidating democracy since the inauguration of the democratic state,” he told the audience.
“At a broader level, all the people of our nation, irrespective of political affiliation, race, class and gender, in other words the broad cross-section of society, owe it to themselves in the first instance to ensure that our country succeeds.”
Meanwhile messages of support have started flooding in from across the globe.
US Secretary of State John Kerry extended his wishes on behalf of President Barack Obama, saying this year’s celebrations were especially poignant as they followed the passing of Nelson Mandela.
“Madiba was a stranger to hate. He rejected recrimination in favour of reconciliation. On this 20th anniversary, we reflect on South Africa’s transformation in these two decades as a testament to the power of reconciliation, forgiveness, and hope.
“As you prepare to hold general elections next month – your fifth in the post-apartheid era – we remember the spirit of that historic election in 1994, one filled with tremendous hope, goodwill, and promise for a better future.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron said South Africa’s struggle to achieve freedom and democracy had shown the world how much can be achieved with courage and determination.
“The South African people have shown us all that a process of reconciliation and forgiveness can truly lead to a brighter future. Our two countries share warm ties, which have only deepened over the past 20 years,” Cameron said.